Friday, April 17, 2009

Chicago Southland brings arts and entertainment alive!

(Right) The Drama Group's upcoming production of "Aida" stars Bob Stewart as Redames and Devin Maddox in the title roll.
Peter Robel stars as an immigrant Russian Jew who is befriended by the town banker, played by Richard Marlatt, in Illinois Theatre Center's production of "The Immigrant." 
Dear Arts and Entertainment Friends,
The more I talk to all of you, the more excited I am about creating this blog. 
I hope you will continue to send me event info/press releases and photos. Also if you want to be on the list of people who receive notices about blog updates, please send me your e-mail.
Mine is
Also, I hope you will forward the link to anyone who is involved in any area theater group or other arts organization. if anyone of you are, or know someone involved with Palos Village Players, Curtain Call Community Theatre, Orland Park Park District Theatre, Union Street or McCord galleries or the university and college galleries and arts events -- please help the blog and the venue by directing my contact and blog info to the right people. If I have left a group out in my wish list, then it's one I do not know but would love to hear about. (Forget the old rule about not ending sentences with prepositions.)
And a reminder, I am not a techie and cyber blog design is based only on the easy-to-use options. That is, this blog is BASIC! Timewise, I hope to publish every other week, probably on Sundays. Thanks for reading and have a great week. Oh, and I would love to hear from you.
BTW: I am trying to keep the blog in sections by arts genres which are then alphabetized by venue. And my initials after an entry signify review commentary.
Oh, and if you find an error, please e-mail me ASAP so I can correct it.
Thanks for your support. Myra THEATRE
The Drama Group presents the Elton John and Tim Rice contemporary opera "Aida" May 8-10 at Bloom High School, Chicago Road and 10th Street, Chicago Heights. The story of the Egyptian princess and her lover, locked together in life and death, takes a contemporary and dramatic turn under the legendary collaboration of lyricist Rice and rock icon John. Those involved say the show is going to be ultra mega spectacular in all ways. Tickets are $18, $17 seniors, students. Box office phone number is (708) 755-3444;
The Drama Group also will present the powerful drama, "The Laramie Project" at the Studio Theatre, 330 202nd St., Chicago Heights. Mark the dates, June 11-21. "Curtains," a wacky, riotous Broadway musical now running at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, continues through May 17. Tickets are $29 to $35; dinner theater packages $43.75 to $56. This delightful play within a play stars Chicagoland's extraordinary first couple of theater, Paula Scrofano and John Reeger, and a full cast of primo performers. A multiple murder mystery musical comedy (whew), "Curtains" showcases Reeger as the wacky director of the play within a play. Scrofano's stellar, though brief, appearance on stage will have you laughing from the outset. This show is simply tons of fun. Tickets and info are at (630) 530-0111, Ticketmaster and at m.e.
Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre for Young Audiences brings "Seussical," the Broadway musical based on the wonderful works by Dr. Seuss, to the stage now running through May 16. Show tickets are $10
MINI REVIEW I was, in a word, verklempt. 
On Friday night, we attended the opening of the the musical "The Immigrant" at  Illinois Theatre Center, 371 Artists Walk in Downtown Park Forest. This musical based on a true story by Mark Harelick, focuses on his grandfather, Haskell Harelik, a Russian Jew, who settled in Hamilton, Texas, in the early 1900s and launched his life in America by selling bananas from a pushcart. 
I could not stop thinking about my own immigrant grandparents, some from Lithuania and others from what was then a part of Austria. How did their lives begin here in America? Did they too arrive with nothing and if so, what skills and or friendships allowed them to thrive in this country? 
The courage that took them across the ocean and into the unknown has allowed me to grow up in this amazing country.
In the play, Harelik (an absolutely brilliant performance by Peter Robel), meets and wins the friendship of the town banker, Milton (a phenomenal Richard Marlatt) and his Baptist wife, Ima (a wonderfully convincing Mary Jane Guymon). Leah Harelick (Jessica Laurent Fisher in a superb performance) joins her husband and over the years, they raise three sons (not seen), all who serve in the U.S. military during World War II. 
The cast's stage chemistry raises the bar even more on this touching musical saga that takes the audience from 1909 to 1942. The South Suburbs' legendary thespian Etel Billig, creative director at ITC, also directs this production which runs to May 3. Tickets are $21 on Fridays and Saturdays, $19 other performances. Tickets are at (708) 481-3510. m.e.
ITC's Summerfect 2009 brings Gilbert and Sullivan to the South Suburbs. Well, at least their music. From July 17 to 26, the Summerfest cast will perform the rollicking comedy, "The Pirates of Penzance." Tickets are now on sale, $15 adults, $14 students and seniors.
A smashing production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," continues at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, through May 10. Tickets are $45, discounts for students and seniors on certain days: (847) 634-0200 and Yes, it's quite a distance from Southland but more than worth the drive and ticket price. Marc Robin choreographs and directs, and his brilliant touches along with bravura performances by every cast member, create a "Joseph" with a grand flair of color, tremendous amount of levity as well as brilliant dance numbers and award-worthy directing. You'll want to see this more than once. www.marriotttheatre.comm.e.
Once again, thespians bring the entertaining Elvis-era theme musical, "Bye Bye Birdie" to stage as Frann Carnivale-Sidlow directs the Orland Park Theatre Troupe production at Carl Sandburg High School Performing Arts Center, 13300 LaGrange Road, Orland Park. Showtimes are 7 p.m. April 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. Tickets ae $18, $16 for seniors and students, $14 for children at 14650 S. Ravinia, Orland Park, at (708) 403-7275. "The Screwtape Letters," Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago. (What kind of address is that, North Southport? Only in Chicago. And yeah, it's nowhere near the Southland.) Now running for six months, this open-ended production is described as a "provocative and funny theatrical adaptation of the C.S. Lewis brilliant novel that explores the theme of spiritual warfare from a demon's point of view." Tickets are $29 to $48 at (773) 325-1700 at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Palos Village Players present Woody Allen's smash farce, "Don't Drink the Water" at 7:30 p.m. May 1,2,8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. May 3.  The show will be staged at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St. Tickets are $15, $12 for adults and seniors. Reservations are at (708) 479-3262. More in next weekend's blog.
Porchlight Music Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, presents "Once On This Island," a "Caribbean musical fairytale," re-imagined by the company, from May 9 though June 28.
Tickets are $37, discounts for students and seniors, at Ticketmaster outlets and at the theater, (773) 327-5252,
Incidentally, the upcoming Porchlight season includes one of my all-time favorite musicals, "The Fantasticks," starting Sept. 11. 
(While I love this 1960s classic, I have seen it only once, at ITC, probably in the late 1980s or early '90s. The huge cast included, as I recall, Howard Hahn and the late David Six.  (If I've upset a few people whose performances I don't remember, let me assure you, the entire production was wonderful.)
William Shakespeare's "The Tempest," at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., continues in the downstairs theater through May 31. The production features a cast of Steppenwolf ensemble members and is directed by Tina Landau, also a member of the award-winning company. Landau "re-imagines this magical tale of art, freedom and the transformative power of forgiveness," the company press release states. More details after I check out this production. Tickets are $20 to $70 at (312) 335-1650 or (OK. Steppenwolf is nowhere near the Southland either but how could anyone even think about eliminating Steppenwolf from a Chicagoland arts list?)
Coming to Steppenwolf for Young Adults, John Steinbeck's powerful drama of friendship and survival-- "Of Mice and Men" -- takes place during the Depression. The two main characters, itinerant farmhands, seek their own little world where life will be sweet. Although the Young Adults series features works young adults will find compelling, the plays are not edited, says David Rosenberg, Steppenwolf communications director. All performances will be at 11 a.m. Show dates are April 25, May 2, 3, 9, 10. Tickets are $20. Spotlight Theater presents one of my all-time favorite comedies, "The Importance of Being Earnest," by the legendary Oscar Wilde, at 7:30 p.m. April 24, 25 and 3 p.m. April 26 at Governors State University; production currently scheduled for F1622 lecture hall. Tickets are $14, $12 for seniors and students with ID; (708) 798-1188. "Earnest" is a Brit classic that has to be seen. You probably read it in high school or college, and as witty as Wilde reads, a successful production takes the comedy to levels often reaching sheer wackiness. Tons of fun, amazing writing and an all-around upbeat treasure. All the details are at NOTE: Theater is spelled with er. TOUR PRODUCTIONS Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University continues its production season with several acts, including the Kingston Trio at 5 p.m. May 3 and the Montana Repertory Theatre production of the classic "To Kill A Mockingbird" at 8 p.m. on May 9. GSU's full schedule info and all tickets are available at and at (708) 235-2222. VISUAL ARTS Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery, 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, presents "A Life in the Light," a photography retrospective of works by Richard Burd now through May 2. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, (708) 748-3377;
From May 15 to June 27, Tall Grass presents "LAND MARKS: Restoration & Regeneration," an unusual and eclectic collection of works by Nikkole Huss and Heather Page, both widely-exhibited artists and college educators. The opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on May 16 will give guests -- anyone who wants to be there -- a chance to meet the artists and hear about the genesis of their distinctive works.
The Tall Grass Art Film Series continues as well. The French film, "The Class," will screen at 6:30 p.m., May 17 at Marcus Theatre, 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights. Tickets are $7.50 and available at the gallery.
MUSEUMS Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Trust me, today's Adler is not your old planetarium. Indeed, it is a stellar haven for the 21st century with loads of interactives and three separate theatres, including the Universe Theatre with a 3-D look at the universe. Another, the Definiti, brings the spectacular tilt dome effect to Adler. Now in repertoire in the Definiti is the powerful "Cosmic Collisions" narrated by Robert Redford. And there's the iconic Sky Theatre, under Adler's famous landmark dome. While Adler, the western world's first planetarium, still retains the treasures and sky shows of years gone by, there is so much more. Exhibits of space artifacts and ancient astronomy instruments as well as tons of hands-on stuff for all ages are just a few of the treasures. There is an entire exhibit area devoted to the Apollo program with loads of memorabilia from astronaut Jim Lovell of Gemini 12. Lovell perhaps is most famous as commander of the almost-doomed Apollo 13. The Gemini 12 capsule is considered the centerpiece of the huge two part exhibit but there is so much more ... videos, artifacts from spaceflights, huge murals and just about everything you will want to know or see about the American space program leading up to Apollo moon flights in Shoot for the Moon, A Voyage with Jim Lovell, on the top floor, right near the rainbow doors. All the Adler details at m.e.
While brutal pirates making headlines today are not the stuff of museum exhibits, the pirates of yesteryear have been romanticized in film and now are the focus of the compelling "Real Pirates,"  now through Oct. 25 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Blvd., Chicago. The exhibit includes the story of the Whydah, from slave ship to pirate ship, a life size replica of the ship's stern and "genuine artifacts (that) will transport you to back to an era that lives in legend," Field Museum information states. Special tickets are required for this exhibit. Admission prices, hours, tickets and more are at
Can't get to Hogwarts, you say. Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, has entered the world of wizards and witchcraft with "Harry Potter: the Exhibition." Visitors of all ages can enter the extraordinary world of Harry Potter in an exciting exhibit running through Sept. 27. Props and costumes and more than 200 authentic artifacts used in the making of the film series are on view, inspired by locations from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Hagrid's Hut and more. Special timed tickets, in addition to admission charge, required for this exhibit and it will have extended hours. All the details and ticket prices and purchase options are at Museum hours, other exhibits and upcoming events also are at the wonderful MSI website. Upcoming free days (do not include special exhibits) are April 22, June 1-5, June 19. More free dates in the fall. All the details, prices and exhibition details are at Also at MSI, "Smart Home, Green + Wired," has reopened with an updated look at the ultimate green home, an eco-friendly dwelling with technology for the 21st century. This exhibit also requires a timed ticket;
A hidden treasure. Trackman Planetarium at Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, continues its FREE series of wonderful sky shows, each followed by a live discussion led by amazing astronomy advocate and planetarium director Art Maurer, yes, the guy from Crete. Shows are as follows: "Mars" (what could be more fascinating?) at 7:30 p.m. April 28; "Our Place in Space" at 6:30 p.m. May 7; "We Go to the Moon" at 6:30 p.m. May 21; "The Solar System and Beyond," 7:30 p.m. May 26 and "Summer Sky for Kids" (of all ages) at 6:30 p.m. June 4. The 6:30 p.m. shows are geared to the younger set but everyone learns from Art. Information and directions are with the planetarium office at (815) 280-6682. MUSIC
Once again, the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District will present its Starry Nights Concert Series at Irwin Park, Ridge Road and Highland Avenue, Homewood. More later but here's the scoop on the lineup: The Guess Who on June 12; Doo Wop Spectacular with Terry Johson's Flamingos, the El Dorados and Jonny Keyes & the Magnificents on July 26; 1964, a Beatles tribute band, on July 24. Advance tickets will be available May 1 at (708) 957-0300. Ticket prices will vary, $15-$20 for adults, depending on show; kids 7 and younger, $7 for all shows. More details as summer nears.
If you did not get to either the Saturday or Sunday Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra concerts featuring violin virtuoso Emil Chudnovsky, you missed a rousing program of mostly Hungarian music. I smiled the entire evening and left feeling light and airy and thrilled we were able to see this extraordinary concert. IPO's season finale, "Titan," including selections from Mahler and Bach, will be at 8 p.m. May 30 at Lincoln-Way North High School Performing Arts Center, 19900 Harlem Ave., Mokena (turn west at Vollmer Road/L-W North intersection.) Tickets are at (708) 481-7774 and Friends of the IPO, meanwhile, present a "Rising Star Showcase" featuring extraordinary young local talent: Ben Amenta on piano, Matt Lippman on viola, Tim Michuda on violin, Anna Cho Walker on cello, Aaron Washington on trumpet. This should be an extraordinary concert starring young performers who are making waves in the world of music. Valerie Nicholson, acclaimed pianist and a name familiar to most music fans in Chicagoland, will emcee and perhaps accompany one of the young artists. Tickets to the 4:30 p.m. April 26 concert at Prairie State College, 202 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights, are only $10, available through the IPO and at the door, if any are available. As Ed Feingold, IPO executive director, said last weekend. "This is probably the last time you'll get to here these young artists for $10."
Rock 'n' roll is here to stay! The music comes alive for the red, white and blue as the fantastic 1950s -- '60s rock 'n' roll experience trio, the Neverly Brothers, perform at a dinner dance fundraiser on April 25 for our courageous U.S. military at the Goose Lake Club, 3935 Goose Lake Road, Morris. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. These guys will have you up, around and dancing if you can. In any case, they're phenom musicians with an amazing repertoire. Tickets are $35 in advance and $30 at the door for dinner and dance at (815) 634-2455 or (815) 325-6064. Yes, it's a bit out of our area, but all proceeds go to Operation Care Package and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Will County.  

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photo by sarah gross

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About Me

Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.